Barcelona sound out Xavi as possible Valverde replacement - sources
Barcelona are sounding out club legend Xavi Hernandez as a possible replacement for Ernesto Valverde, with Valverde expected to move on in the summer, sources have told ESPN.
Sporting director Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau met with the former Barca midfielder on Friday in Qatar, where he is coaching Al Sadd.- ESPN La Liga fantasy: Sign up now!
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Abidal and Grau travelled to Qatar from Saudi Arabia, where they saw Barca knocked out of the Spanish Supercopa to Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
The purpose of their visit was officially to check in on Ousmane Dembele, who is undergoing rehab in Doha, but they took advantage of their trip to chat with Xavi as Valverde's position comes under increased threat.
Sources close to the club insist the timing, one day after the loss to Atletico, was a coincidence, but revealed Xavi is a "serious option" to take over at Camp Nou in the future.
Xavi, 39, has long been touted as a potential Barca coach and is one of a few options they are considering as they begin to think beyond Valverde.
Al Sadd on Friday issued a statement via social media, saying: "AlSadd general manager Turki Al-Ali: Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club, it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd.
"Xavi and his team are focusing on tomorrow's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."
Ronald Koeman is another candidate for the Barcelona role. It was leaked last year that his contract with the Netherlands includes a clause that would allow him to join Barca after this summer's European Championship if the Catalan club come calling.
Valverde's job is not in immediate danger despite the loss to Atletico in Jeddah.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu still supports him and the players are also behind him. Both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez backed him publicly on Thursday.
However, there is an increasing feeling that this will be his last season at the club. His contract expires in the summer but there is an option to extend it until 2021.
That option is unlikely to be taken up, though, with Bartomeu increasingly alone on the board in his support of the coach. There are several members of the club's hierarchy who have long thought a change of coach is necessary.
The main problem has always been finding a replacement, with a lack of options available. Xavi is still in the early days of his management career and Koeman is not available until the summer.
There is a board meeting on Monday and Valverde's future may well be discussed, but it's a pre-planned meeting and has not been called in reaction to the Supercopa exit.